Music was always an inevitability for the young Toronto singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist AVIV, who pens D.I.Y. pop that feels universally relatable. Growing up, AVIV was surrounded by music, from her parents and siblings and from the city of Toronto itself. She started learning piano at age six and guitar at age twelve, and, after being gifted a keyboard for her 14th birthday, taught herself how to write songs. When the pandemic hit, AVIV found herself trapped at home, bored, quickly realizing that her life-long love of music could become something more than a hobby.
“I was trying a million and one things and none of them stuck,” she remembers. “And then I tried writing music and I loved it. Initially, I was just making music for fun and exploring different aspects of it. I grew up listening to Elliott Smith and Radiohead, all of these artists whose music I would pick apart. When I started making my own music, I used a lot of that analysis as inspiration.”
AVIV released a few singles on her own, including “Cookie Dough” and “Girls In Red,” which attracted the attention of fans and music industry, earning her a label deal with Photo Finish Records in the US, and Dine Alone Records in her native Canada. Since early 2021, AVIV has been writing and recording her debut EP, an evocative, hook-laden collection of songs called Drowning in the Culture. The title, which shares its name with one of the EP’s standout tracks, came from a feeling AVIV had while in LA last spring.
“I was in Los Angeles doing writing sessions and I hated everything I was coming up with,” she says. “I didn’t think any of it was as good as what society would want to hear. I put so much pressure on myself to make things that other people would enjoy and it felt like I was drowning. I went into the studio the next day and wrote that song, as a response to my feelings and as a result, answered a lot of questions for me. The EP as a whole deals with the things that culture comes with, like relationships and predetermined judgements.”
To create Drowning in the Culture, AVIV teamed up with several songwriters and producers, including Courtney Ballard (5 Seconds of Summer, Tori Kelly, Waterparks) and Rian Lewis (Doja Cat, DRAM, Chromeo). She collaborated with Kristina Sarro on “Black Coffee,” a soaring pop number that recalls two of AVIV’s favorite musicians, Lorde and Lana Del Rey. Although there is a thematic consistency to the EP, the songs themselves vary in style, particularly “You Feel Like Depression,” a track AVIV loved because it felt so unexpected. Ultimately, the EP sees AVIV coming to terms with issues she’d been grappling with for years.
“I had a lot of unanswered questions and somehow every single song answered one of them for me,” she says. “It was like, ‘What’s the thing that’s on my mind today that I need to make sense of?’ And then I would write a song about it. Now, post pandemic, seeing this body of work I created during a time I was feeling so many things, it’s like a breath of fresh air to let go to that go. I’m ready to send it into the world. I answered my questions and I hope that, in some way, the listeners’ questions are a step closer to being answered, as well.”